Lanny Poffo admits he doesn’t remember earlier encounters with his godfather. It's understandable since those happened during the 61-year-old’s day as a young-in.
He does recall his mother and father, though, speaking glowing of Ilio DiPaolo – sharing their fondest of memories with him and his brother Randy since the wrestling families had a close relationship. Poffo also remembers his first visit to Buffalo, when he wrestled as a member of the then World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) in 1985.
That’s when he visited Ilio DiPaolo’s in Blasdell for the first time, just to “introduce” himself. Before Poffo knew it, he was calling his father Angelo down in Florida from a restaurant phone and spent the next 20 minutes listening to the two catching up with each other in Italian.
Neither Angelo Poffo nor DiPaolo are with us any longer, but Lanny returns to Western New York to pay homage to his godfather while honoring his own brother at the same time.
Poffo will be in Buffalo on Friday and Saturday as part of the two-day “Wrestling Legends of the Aud: 20th Anniversary Event.” It’s a tribute to the first Legends of the Aud Night held in 1996.
Besides Poffo, those expected to attend the weekend’s festivities include former World Championship Wrestling President Eric Bischoff, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas, Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, Dominic DeNucci and The Nasty Boys,
The Friday portion features a meet and greet and a VIP event at Coca-Cola Field during “fridaynightbash!” prior to the Buffalo Bisons’ 7:05 p.m. contest against Gwinnett. Video highlights of DiPaolo and the legends will be shown during the game.
The event concludes at 7 p.m. Saturday with a tribute and show at the Buffalo RiverWorks featuring Douglas and members of the Buffalo RiverWorks Wrestling providing the in-ring entertainment. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and those who purchase VIP tickets ($40) can meet the wrestlers, but ticket prices start at $20 and can be purchased at buffaloriverworks.com. Proceeds benefit Women and Children’s Hospital and the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Fund, which honors the area's top scholastic wrestling seniors annually.
The late Randy “Macho Man” Savage will be the first inductee into the Ilio DiPaolo Legends of the Aud Hall of Fame. Poffo will accept the honor on behalf of his brother, whose real-life name was Randy Mario Poffo.
Savage, a two-time WWE and four-time WCW champion, attended the first Legends of the Aud Night and the subsequent ones during WCW stops in Buffalo. He died May 20, 2011 from Cardiac arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop beating.
“My mom is very excited,” Lanny Poffo said Wednesday via phone. “She won’t be there but she’ll be 90 years old in January and has very fond memories of the DiPaolo family. She is happy Randy will be honored.
“I’m real excited about coming in. … I was very happy when I was summoned. I love Niagara Falls and Buffalo and always had a good time there.”
While Savage is perhaps the more famous of the two wrestling brothers, Poffo had his own fan base while performing as “Leaping Lanny” Poffo and “The Genius” during his days in the former WWF. Though he was the star of jobbers during his time as Leaping Lanny (he lost more than he won but was allowed to look good in defeat), he preferred his time as The Genius for a pretty good reason.
“I got to be in main events with (then WWF world champion) Hulk Hogan for four months,” he said. “I defeated Hulk Hogan on NBC (the title did not change hands as it was via count out). … I made an appearance on Regis Philbin. That was definitely the best time of my career.”
Poffo wrestled with and against his brother often while both started out in the business during the 1970s, starring for their father’s promotion – International Championship Wrestling. He only squared off against Savage twice during their time in WWF, in non-televised matches as a fill-in opponent.
Poffo used to read poems he wrote before his matches and in real life has written two international best-selling books -- including the anti-smoking book Limericks of the Heart (and Lungs!).
Poffo has written a poem for Saturday. He has been happily retired from wrestling for five years. He’s not planning on stepping back in the ring to deliver one more Honor Roll (Senton bomb) or Moonsault (backflip body splash) to an opponent. The wrestler turned writer/motivational speaker still is capable of providing outside interference to influence a match’s outcome or deliver a sneak attack. Remember, he does have wrestling managerial experience.
“I’d rather just do a poem, that’s enough,” he said. “I can’t wrestle anymore. I do enjoy this form of entertainment. It’s a lot of fun speaking in front of a lot of people."
Here is the poem Lanny Poffo plans to read to fans Saturday.
Ilio DiPaolo was a Legend of the Aud
The only place to be on Friday night
From wrestling ring to restauranteur he settled down in Blasdell
His stuffed banana peppers still delight!
Ilio DiPaolo died in 1995
Over 20 years ago. God keep his soul
With Dominic DeNucci and Dick Beyer in attendance
Tonight we’re going to let the good times roll